July 29, 2019
Banks aren't usually the ones making the withdrawals -- but politics seems to have changed that. Earlier this month, SunTrust, one of the largest chains in the southeast, announced it was yanking the financial rug out from at least two companies that manage the detention centers along the border. As far as SunTrust is concerned, anyone who's partnering with the federal government to hold migrants is part of the president's big bad immigration policy. How is that fair? Last week on the Hill, bank CEO William Rogers had a tough time explaining.
According to SunTrust, the decision to blackball immigration centers was part of a "deliberate process." The announcement came, the bank's spokespeople insisted, "after extensive consideration of the views of our stakeholders on this deeply complex issue." Amanda Gilchrist, who works for CoreCivic -- one of the groups just dropped by SunTrust -- doesn't believe it. "This decision is about caving to political pressure. These banks have kowtowed to a small group of activists rather than engaging in a constructive dialogue." Not to mention, she pointed out, if this was supposed to be a protest of family separation, it's a pointless one. For starters, the Trump administration has largely solved the problem. And secondly, neither her company -- nor the other one affected, Geo Group -- runs any centers for unaccompanied minors.
This sends "a terrible message to others in the private sector," CoreCivic argued, "who are working to help our government solve serious problems in ways it could not do alone. [We] have a 35-year track record of working with both Democrat and Republican administrations to help solve the very types of crises we are now seeing on our southern border." But then, SunTrust -- like Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo, who are also singling out detention center companies for discrimination -- isn't interested in solving the crisis. Obviously, these CEOs, who had no problem working with Barack Obama on the border, just want to make a political point.
During Wednesday's Financial Services hearing in the House, Congressman Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.) steered the conversation with Rodgers away from SunTrust's potential merger with BB&T to the company's obvious intolerance for legal immigration. "If we have private detention centers that are caring for children, or detaining individuals who [might not be] following American law -- you say, 'I'm not going to bank [with] them.' Is that fair?" Duffy pressed. When Rogers tried to defend SunTrust, saying it "considers a variety of factors..." Duffy interrupted him and asked again, "Is it fair?" Without waiting for an answer, he pushed Rodgers on whether he -- like a lot of his liberal allies -- think "detention centers are concentration camps" or if "[immigration agents] are Nazis?"
Rodgers said he couldn't remember anyone "using those descriptions." Duffy switched gears. Is this how the bank is supporting "open borders," he asked -- by refusing to loan to private prison operators? SunTrust, Rodgers claimed, "is not taking a social position..." But he couldn't finish because Duffy fired back, "You are taking a social position when you say you won't bank [with] detention facilities."
Of course, taking social positions is nothing new for SunTrust, which also ousted David and Jason Benham from their accounts after the twins were fired from HGTV for their biblical views. After pulling all of its listed properties with the Benham brothers' bank-owned business, SunTrust was so overwhelmed by customer complaints that it reinstated the brothers barely a day later. Whether or not the public outcry will be enough for Rodgers and company to change course this time, no one knows.
In the meantime, it just goes to show how much Big Business has changed. After decades of relying on Republicans' sound economic policies, the tide has turned. Today's CEOs are more concerned with aligning with the radical Left than attracting consumers. Lately, that means attacking the very values that pave the way for their corporate success. If chains like SunTrust want to throw those principles overboard and make themselves willing hostages of liberal activists, that's their choice. But don't come crying to conservative policy makers when your profits are on the line and the only friends you have left are Big Government liberals who know nothing but suffocating regulations and taxes.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.